By Being Empty, and Saved That Way, Five Blocks Halt Progress (April 30 - June 7, 2009)
This exhibition celebrated the founding of the Forrent Land Trust, an urban land trust dedicated to the preservation of empty storefronts in West Harlem. The goal of the Trust is to obtain permanent "for rent" conservation easements on unoccupied storefronts from West 147th Street to 152nd Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenues, maintaining them as is--with "for rent" signs on their facades. Why would they do this? Well, if successful, the Trust believes that its land-management initiative will curb predatory commercial development, slow rent hikes, and retard the rapid increase in property values and taxes in the area.
The exhibition visualized the Trust's plans. It included a large-spray-painted map of the neighborhood and the target properties, a sprawling found-object floor sculpture that reflected on issues of cultural preservation, nearly one hundred photographs of the targeted storefronts -- picturing them in the present and ten and twenty years into the future -- and a copy of a samle Forrent Land Trust Conservation Easement.
Critics of the Trust complain that the massive lock-down on empty properties will only increase demand, resulting in short-term price increases in adjacent properties." Regardless, the Forrent Land Trust's biggest challenge will be making a convincing argument that the properties in question all have "conservation value" as defined in Section 170 (H)(4)(A) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Trust claims that they are "historically important structures," not for any intrinsic value they might possess but rather for their instrumental value, historically, in preserving local culture in a highly vulnerable community by maintaining a state of perpetual under-development.